Rationalization: supplying a logical or rational reason to make excuses that are opposed to the real authentic reason. Constructing a logical justification for a decision that was originally arrived at through a different mental process or fuzzy logic.
Rationalization (also known as Making Excuses) is an Ego Defense Mechanism in which controversial behaviors or feelings are justified and explained in a seemingly rational or logical manner to avoid the true explanation, and are made consciously tolerable, or even admirable and superior, by plausible means. It is also an informal fallacy of reasoning.
Rationalization happens in two steps:
- A decision, action, judgement is made for a given reason, or no (known) reason at all.
- A rationalisation is performed, constructing a seemingly good or logical reason, as an attempt to justify the act after the fact (for oneself or others).
Rationalization encourages irrational or unacceptable behavior, motives, or feelings and often involves ad hoc hypothesizing. This process ranges from fully conscious (e.g. to present an external defense against ridicule from others) to mostly unconscious (e.g. to create a block against internal feelings of guilt or shame). People rationalize for various reasons, sometimes when we think we know ourselves better than we do. Rationalization may differentiate the original deterministic explanation of the behavior or feeling in question.
Ego Defense Mechanism
As one learns how to refocus one’s thoughts, one prevents overwhelming states of emotion from triggering impulsive behaviors and angry reactions. As one developes strong impulse control they are learning a form of ego discipline through applied patience. If we check in and find that we do not like what we may be feeling, we can learn better the reasons for that by further shifting into the observer mode. In our community, we refer to that process of observing as shifting from identifying with a thought or feeling to moving ourselves into the compassionate witness. As a Compassionate Witness we have no judgment of thoughts or feelings, we hold no judgment toward what we are observing in the external, we only observe those thoughts and feelings in our self and others. When we can fully observe through our own Compassionate Witness, we then become neutral and centered. Then, we can immediately find relief from our inner anxiety, fears and a host of other thought distortions. This process is key to shifting Ego Defense Mechanisms, thought addiction tendencies and releasing the anxiety or fear of feeling emotional depth or pain. By continually using an ego defense mechanism to avoid facing the source causation of the anxiety or deeply rooted fear, (which is unresolved pain or trauma) we are only perpetuating the mental looping which uses denial of the truth in order to avoid feeling pain or discomfort.